Compliance is nothing new in manufacturing. Health and safety regulations, for instance, have long been at the top of the list of mandates that manufacturers must adhere to. But in 2018 compliance is about more than making sure people work in a safe and healthy environment, it also means compliance to process. If you have a production line, it is your mandate to ensure that line is as efficient as possible. The struggle, however, is identifying areas for improvement and finding ways to maximize productivity and efficiency.
To solve this puzzle, some will bring in new machinery, IoT sensors, and other tools. A more effective strategy would be to focus on the overwhelming amount of manual processes and workflows that underpin the manufacturing process and identify opportunities to digitize it, thereby boosting productivity and achieving compliance.
Today’s manufacturers are heavily reliant on manual methods and paper-based forms to gather data and carry-out critical audits and inspections on the factory floor. For example, it’s the job of an inspector to carefully examine or scrutinize every area of operations, including pieces of equipment, sensor data, and employee actions. An inspection report is an essential part of that daily data collection process. Yet, completing these reports and sharing them across the organization is a time-consuming and inefficient affair.
For instance, many things can happen in the time that a form is filled out, shared with the back office, manually re-entered into a spreadsheet or database, and stored away in a filing cabinet. The form can be lost, damaged, or even altered. Such delays can compromise supervisor reviews and decision-making. Without the ability to collect, view, and analyze this data in real-time, or properly organize and manage documents, it can be hard to see where inefficiencies and non-compliance are occurring in the manufacturing process.
Digitize to Standardize
Digitizing these manual workflows is an essential step to simplifying manufacturer compliance. There is a huge opportunity to achieve greater efficiency from the point of data collection to the transfer of that data.
Fortunately, thanks to cloud and mobile technology, workflow automation is no longer reserved for mega companies with big budgets. These seamlessly interoperable technologies have democratized and simplified the process of collecting data during compliance audits and quality control and assurance, substantially reducing the time involved in managing these activities. Data may include images, time stamps, date, location, signatures, bar codes, and other element, many of which that can’t be captured on paper.
Put into practice, easy-to-use cloud-based mobile platforms can help manufacturing companies move their most commonly used paper forms such as 5S audits, OSHA compliance, manufacturing plant risk assessments, inspection reviews, work schedule templates, and more, to smartphone-based apps. Employees working at inspection stations on the manufacturing line can use these apps to capture information on mobile forms, speeding up the transfer of information without sacrificing accuracy. This eliminates the need to write everything on a clipboard, leave their station, and track down a supervisor – everything is automated right on their tablet. The result is a standardized and efficient process for collecting and sharing important information across the business one that enables a natural handoff in a much more swift and fluid way.
Standardizing data collection not only substantially reduces the time involved in performing audits but can also identify areas that may previously not have been audited correctly, ultimately helping organizations to avoid potentially heavy fines. Standardization also creates the opportunity to see where inefficiencies are happening in the manufacturing process, such as poor work practices, and helps organizations mitigate problems by training staff to rectify or avoid these problems.
Speeding Up Information Sharing
Once standardized, data can now be easily shared – via the cloud – with other people and integrated systems like Google Drive, Salesforce, Box, and more, improving work and communication between all levels of the team. From incident reporting, equipment inspections, maintenance reporting and tracking, to open issues tracking, and more, information can be submitted accurately and in real-time, keeping quality assurance managers and staff in locations around the world informed on up-to-the minute changes and potential areas of non-compliance.
With the Business Transformed, Compliance is Simplified
From conformance to OSHA requirements, quality assurance and product standards, and observance of new data privacy regulations such as GDPR, interpreting, acting on, and tracking compliance is a necessary evil in manufacturing, and isn’t getting any easier. But compliance is also an opportunity to modernize and realize new efficiencies in the production process.
Using the power of data and automated workflows, manufacturers can ensure compliance with regulations and implement production line best practices across the entire organization while dramatically changing how the businesses operates.
In this way, compliance becomes less of a burden. Rather, it drives value back into the business. Using technology as ubiquitous as the cloud and mobile apps, manufacturers can streamline and automate the process of collecting, reporting, and making critical data easily accessible to everyone. This will give them the flexibility and confidence to transform their production line process into something less cumbersome — and more innovative.